There’s always a danger with an acoustic album that there will be a lack of depth, that somehow the simplicity of the instruments will not be enough to sustain a dozen songs. This is not the case with Burning the Threshold, the latest release from Six Organs of Admittance. The album is another fine addition to Ben Chasny’s impressive collection of musical achievements.
Inspired by the work of Wallace Stevens, there is depth and poetry to Burning the Threshold. There is also something strangely medieval about some of the tracks as if the music somehow claws through time. ‘Things As They Are’, was influenced by a play by David Todd, a production Chasny had been creating music for. The acoustic twang has hints of The Byrds. ‘Angels are always necessary’, but the addition of the slide guitar makes this song into a very modern madrigal.
All the tracks are substantial, benefitting from crisp production that allows you to hear every scrape on the guitar strings. On ‘Adoration Song’, Chasny’s voice has both softness and strength; ‘rise up now’ he sings. The electric guitar elevates the sound and the message becomes more pointed. What follows is a sequence of three-word titled tracks: ‘Under Fixed Stars’, ‘Around the Axis’, ’Threshold of Light’, ‘Taken By Ascent’. So often the songs seem to have something celestial about them. Some capture whispers under a blanket in the dark, others have a mesmeric nursery rhyme quality.
There are a couple of neat instrumental tracks, too. ‘Around the Axis’ is a musical painting, a study or sketch before the real thing, acoustic impressionism. ‘Reservoir’ is a little shorter. It has a delicate repeated refrain that becomes hypnotic, like the essence of existence.
‘Taken By Ascent’ is stunning. It would have to be something special to justify being over seven minutes long. The vocal is languid and psychedelic, enhanced by Hayley Fohr’s superb three part harmonies. Her contributions in the chorus are accompanied by a burst of electric guitar. Together, the bass and drums are intense. The latter are courtesy of Chris Corsano and it’s difficult not to get carried away with them, especially when the drum rolls start. Cooper Crain of Bitchin Bajas, the recorder of Burning the Threshold, also adds keys on this track. They are like The Doors-lite. Everything is vital. At the end, the music fades to a white spot on the tv screen.
Don’t let the deliberately obscure, enigmatic name of the band deter you. Equally, strip out the unappealing mysticism that surrounds some of the band’s previous hexadic albums. These are great songs. They soar like the white bird on the cover. We just can’t tell if it is flying in front of the sun or the moon.
Be ready to be bewitched.
Burning the Threshold will be released on 24th February 2017 through Drag City.